SPOKANE, Wash. – Will Wren's goal in the 84th minute lifted Whitworth to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over visiting Willamette in a Northwest Conference men's soccer match on Sunday afternoon.
The 16th-ranked Pirates improved to 5-0-1 overall and 2-0 in the NWC while the Bearcats dropped to 3-3-1, 0-1-1.
While Whitworth certainly had more offensive chances, Willamette's physical defense kept the Pirates off-balance for much of the match.
Wren's goal came on a great individual effort. He retook possession of the ball from a Willamette defender and dribbled around a second Bearcat toward the top-middle of the penalty box. He fired a missile toward the goal that Willamette keeper Brayden Calder got his hands on, but could not stop.
It was Wren's third goal of the weekend.
"Will had a great weekend and though he scored the goals for us, he was also part of a back line that prevented few opportunities for the opponents," said Whitworth head coach Sean Bushey.
Whitworth goal keeper Kyle Novak only had to make one save to post the Pirates' fifth clean sheet of the season. Whitworth has allowed only a single goal so far in 2012.
The Pirates finished with a 13-5 advantage in overall shots, including a 4-1 edge in shots on-goal. Calder made three stops for the Bearcats.
"It was a hard-fought game and I thought we handled the emotions of it fairly well," Bushey said.
The physical style of defense did catch up to Willamette as the Bearcats were assessed three yellow cards and a red card was given to Etienne Galbreath for a pointless foul as time expired.
Whitworth will hit the road to play at George Fox and Pacific next Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Both matches are scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. as the second halves of women's and men's doubleheaders.
"We are thankful to start the conference season with two wins and look forward to the challenge of the Oregon trip next weekend," Bushey concluded.